How to Take Charge of Your Professional Development

When it comes to being productive at work, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of just doing what’s expected of us. But if you want to truly succeed in your field, you’ll need to do all you can to make yourself a more valuable employee. In order to do that, you should always be working on expanding your skill set through professional development opportunities.


If you haven’t formed a professional development plan for 2016 yet, now’s the time. A sound plan for taking control of your professional development this year can help you finish 2016 in much better shape than when you started it. First you’ll need to research opportunities for professional development in your field and set some goals. Then, set your plan in motion and don’t forget to keep track of your progress so that you’ll know when you’re veering off-track.

Take Stock of Where You are Right Now
Before you can craft the professional development plan you need, you first must to sit down and make an honest assessment of your needs. Where are you in your career? Maybe you’d like to move into a different field. Maybe you’re working for a company you like in a field that interests you, but you’re not in a role that truly satisfies you and you’d like to change that. Maybe you’re not even employed at all, and want to take steps to make yourself a more desirable candidate so you can change that this year. Whatever your situation, you need to make an accurate assessment of what it is, whether you’re happy with it, and what steps you’d like to change to enhance your professional life in the future.

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Find Resources and Set Goals
Once you’ve decided where you want to go with your career over the next year, it’s time to look into the resources at your disposal. BusinessmanClimbingYou might choose to go back to school for the degree you need to move into a new field or advance in your present field. You might look into professional development seminars in your field, training opportunities, or possible certifications. You might also want to take the initiative to independently look into some of the key ideas in your field; maybe an industry expert has published an exciting new book you might want to read, or maybe you just need to brush up on some of the foundational ideas in your area of professional expertise.

After you have a grasp of some of the opportunities available to you, it’s time to set some professional development goals for the year. Take care, in exercising this step, not to overwhelm yourself with too much at once. It’s okay — in fact, it’s essential — to have big dreams. But you may not be able to realize your biggest aspirations in just one year.

Instead of trying to take on too much at once, break your larger goal into smaller, more actionable goals. This may mean that a huge goal, like earning an advanced degree or starting a new business, could take two or three years to fully realize. That’s perfectly okay. Perhaps graduation day is your ultimate goal, but for now, focus on putting together your school applications and then, on earning high marks in each individual class. Or maybe opening your own business may be your ultimate goal, but for now, focus on learning all you can about the products and services you’ll offer at your establishment, formulating a business plan, and building the networking relationships that will help you bring your goal to fruition.

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Put the Wheels in Motion and Keep Track of Your Progress
Once you have a workable plan, put it into action. While you don’t want to beat yourself up if some elements of the plan take longer than others, try to stay as close to on schedule as possible. It can be very helpful to track your progress as you work toward your ultimate goal. Monitoring your overall progress can help you better adhere to your schedule, and keep you motivated to keep plugging away toward your professional goals. At the end of the year, take some time to reconsider key elements of your plan to see if you need more time or if the plan itself needs tweaking. As you work towards your new professional life, you may become aware that some steps of the plan aren’t necessary or, alternatively, that your plan will require more work than initially thought.

If you don’t have a professional development plan, 2016 is the year to get one. A well-thought-out plan can help you achieve the career success you’ve always dreamed of, and make those big, ambitious goals seem realistic and achievable.

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Written by Cher Zavala

About the author: Cher Zavala contributes content on a variety of subjects to a number of high-quality websites.